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Nealy Fischer of MAYYA + Movement offers her best fitness tips for mums looking to stay in shape. Read on to discover her practical ideas on how to prioritise yourself through this busy time, so that you are better able to take care of your baby.
Having had four kids in 11 years between the age of 24 and 35, I have experienced four very different pregnancies first-hand. Every pregnancy came with different cravings, weight gain fluctuations, feelings and sensations. But a common thread throughout my pregnancies has been my commitment to taking good care of myself, to manage both my expanding waistline and my sanity.
For many years, and throughout my childbearing journeys, I taught pregnancy yoga and lifestyle courses to hundreds of women. A common theme emerged in my encounters: women who commit to taking care of themselves are better able to take care of others. They leap into motherhood with confidence, energy and a defined sense of self and purpose.
Here are my top 10 fitness tips for mums-to-be, to help you stay in shape during pregnancy and maintain your groove, postpartum and beyond:
1 Make your health and fitness a priority. I believe you can be in the best shape of your life as a mum. While everyone has different experiences of pregnancy, studies are conclusive that regular moderate exercise means you’ll gain less baby weight, you are likely to have a better labour, and lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes – the list of benefits goes on.
Explore the many prenatal exercise options available and find one that’s right for you. Focus on how good being fit feels when you’re facing a mental battle to make your way to the gym or when you’re staring at a second muffin. Not only will you be well on your way to a healthy pregnancy, you’ll create a happier and more confident you. Do: envision your healthiest self. Don’t: use pregnancy as an excuse to let yourself go.
2 Fuel and hydrate smartly. You do have to eat more while you’re pregnant, just not that much more. While guidelines vary, the Institute of Medicine says if you’re a healthy weight, you need no additional calories in the first trimester, 340 extra calories a day in the second trimester, and about 450 extra calories a day in the third trimester. That equates to approximately an extra 100 to 150 calorie snack between meals three times a day: two apples or 15 almonds are two good examples of nutritious 100 calorie snacks.
Reduce your sugar and processed foods intake and stick to good sources of fat, an abundance of vegetables and lean, well-sourced proteins. Stash a bottle of water and healthy snacks in your bag so that you can keep steadily nourished and hydrated throughout your day. Do: eat and hydrate slightly more and slightly more often than you’re used to. Don’t: eat for two and down sodas as liquids.
3 Move daily, but don’t push your limits. While exercise is important, pregnancy is not a time to test your extremes or take on new physical challenges. Unless you have a medical condition, stay as active as you were before getting pregnant. The rule of thumb is to maintain your current fitness level rather than to train hard. Get in a balance of cardio training and weight-bearing exercises. Do: walk, swim, stretch, moderate cardiovascular exercise, light weight workouts. Don’t: push your limits, lift heavy weights, twist and pound, compete.
4 Make time for self-reflection. Becoming a mum – even for the second or third time – may bring up mixed emotions including fears, doubts, excitement and questions about your road ahead. Take some time to practice yoga and meditation, or even consider starting a journal. Turning inwards you’re bound to discover infinite freedom, despite the physical discomforts of the load you’re carrying. Do: yoga, meditate, breathe, let go. Don’t: overschedule, stress, overanalyse.
5 Schedule in healthy ‘you’ time. We live in one of the busiest cities in the world. If something is not scheduled in your calendar, it never gets done. So look at your daily routine and slot in ‘you’ time: A foot massage, a yoga class, a healthy lunch with a friend. Do: control the outcome of your day. Don’t: allow your day to control you.
6 Protect your midsection. If there’s one body part most vulnerable to long-term strain it’s your abdominals. Protect them by being choosy about the types of classes you take and find a qualified health professional to guide you. Don’t forget that engaging your abdominals correctly during pregnancy is a very important contributor to a healthy birth and a speedier recovery. Educate yourself about the right and wrong way to work them. Do: Kegels, transverse abdominal exercises, prenatal Pilates, supported planks. Don’t: crunches, complicated abs, anything where your belly pushes outwards.
7 Exercise in clothing you are comfortable in. I’m all about love, but ‘love handles’ on display while pregnant? Pass. Get rid of those ‘one-size-too-small-for-you’ tops and splurge on some workout gear you feel fabulous in. It will motivate you to get sweating and stretching. Do: wear comfortable flattering clothing that makes you feel fabulous. Don’t: try and fit into your skinny leggings or tight tops.
8 Take time to heal before you sprint. So, you’ve had your baby and you are ready for those size 26 jeans to fit you again. Well, think again. Patience is a virtue. Healing takes time and in fact, rushing back postpartum often creates a rebound effect later. Your body needs to heal itself with rest and sleep. Need to move? Go out for walks. Move slowly and steadily and build strength gradually. Do: start slow and steady, move when you feel compelled to. Don’t: push too hard and stress about getting your body back.
9 Sleep or nap. We all know how essential a good night’s sleep is. We need sleep to maintain focus, attention and alertness, replenish and repair, regulate appetite and build resistance to infection. Yet in pregnancy you’re often too uncomfortable to sleep and postpartum you’re responding all night to a baby who may be uncomfortable. The solution? Nap, nap, nap. Not getting at least seven hours of sleep at night? Find creative ways to sneak a guiltless snooze into your day. Do: sleep on your left side while pregnant and nap often. Don’t: forget the importance of cumulative sleep hours.
10 Listen to your body. Despite all the advice you read, the best advice you can get is the feedback from your body when you pause to listen to its cues. Hungry? Eat more. In pain? Get help. Tight muscles? Get a massage. Tired? Take a nap. Some days it’s just about survival. And guess what? Tomorrow’s a new day. Enjoy your blessed journey.
Nealy Fischer has been a leader in the fitness, yoga and wellness industry for almost two decades. She has led programmes in New York, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. Known for creating innovative wellness solutions, she inspires women globally to lead healthy, balanced and fulfilled lives. Learn more at www.mayyamovement.com.